Students Help Build Habitat House in GA
Spending spring break with paint brushes and hammers in hand has become a tradition for Emily Vivyan, president of SUNY Oneonta’s Habitat for Humanity Club. Vivyan was one of 12 SUNY Oneonta students who traveled to St. Simon’s Island, Ga., during spring break in mid-March to help build a Habitat for Humanity house. It was her fourth spring break trip with the SUNY Oneonta club, which previously helped build houses in Mississippi and Florida.
Habitat for Humanity International is a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian ministry that has helped to build more than 500,000 houses for families in need worldwide. Through volunteer labor and donations of money and materials, Habitat builds and rehabilitates simple, decent houses alongside its homeowner partner families.
During this year’s trip, the SUNY Oneonta students worked alongside the building manager and a group of retired Habitat enthusiasts, called “Caravaners,” to move a house several steps closer to completion. Throughout the week, the volunteers put siding and roofing on the house, installed insulation, and built a shed.
“After doing the math, the lead Caravaner told us that the number of hours we worked on the house totaled $5,000 in costs that would have been paid to workers and contractors if this was not a Habitat home,” Vivyan said. “Knowing that we helped a family gain an affordable house was a great feeling.”
At the end of each work day, the students had dinner with local families who had signed up to host them. “The families were all so accommodating, and we found ourselves staying at the houses well past dark, just talking with them and hearing their stories about their families, lives and the Georgia area,” Vivyan said. “One couple took us to a real Southern barbecue, where we were able to indulge in many Southern staples, like chicken and dumplings and fried chicken. Many families were able to point out particularly enjoyable areas near the beach, and we were set up with a private tour of the St. Simon’s Island lighthouse.”
Vivyan, who will graduate May 19 with a degree in English and psychology, said the trip was a highlight of her time at SUNY Oneonta. “Going into the trip, many of us did not know each other. By the end, we all felt extremely close. All of us felt so fortunate to be able to help out in a community that deserves it so much, and to experience the feeling of satisfaction in knowing that we were making a difference. I have been on the spring break trips all four years of my college career and this one, in particular, stands out. I know that I am not only speaking for myself when I say that this trip will definitely be looked back on as an experience of a lifetime, filled with gratitude and lasting memories.”